Lauren Booth, the half-sister of Cherie Blair, has been removed as a trustee of an Islamic charity after a Charity Commission inquiry found that the charity failed to account for at least £92,110 of spending.
The regulator said today that after it had run an investigation into Peacetrail, which had objects of advancing Islam and relieving poverty, two trustees, one of whom was Booth, and the charity’s chief executive, who was Booth’s husband, were disqualified from holding further trustee positions after approximately half the charity’s income was unaccounted for.
The two trustees, who will need to obtain a waiver from the commission or the courts to act as trustees again, were found by the inquiry to have failed to exercise control over the charity’s finances or oversee its chief executive properly.
The chief executive, Sohale Ahmed, was also considered by the regulator to have been a "de-facto trustee" and was disqualified from holding trustee or senior management positions in another charity for four years and six months from 18 January.
The inquiry into Peacetrail opened on 31 March 2016 after a previous compliance visit uncovered concerns about the charity’s financial management, governance arrangements, a lack of due diligence concerning the charity’s agents and partners, and risks to the charity’s property due to a lack of monitoring of expenditure.
Further examination of the charity’s bank records showed there was £203,000 in unaccounted-for expenditure between 1 November 2013 and 5 June 2015, the commission’s inquiry report says.
The regulator also found that the charity’s chief executive had self-authorised salary payments of £46,500.
Other financial issues uncovered by the commission included £70,149 that was transferred to an individual acting as the charity’s agent in Palestine without evidence of how this money was used.
Another £18,812 had been withdrawn from the charity from cash machines and by cashing cheques, with no paperwork available to show the money was used for charitable expenditure, the regulator found.
The commission discovered that the trustees – Booth and Nadeem Ahmed – had attempted to resign on 8 September 2014 and 4 January 2016 respectively, but it found both resignations to be ineligible because it would have left the charity inquorate.
Despite evidence presented to the commission during the course of the inquiry, £92,110.35 of the charity’s expenditure remained unaccounted for – which was 50 per cent of the charity’s total expenditure.
The inquiry also found receipts for spending that was not clearly linked to the charity’s activities, and included travel and accommodation in the UK and the Middle East, household goods, food and television licence payments.
The inquiry found that the trustees’ failure to exercise control over the charity’s finances was misconduct and/or mismanagement.
The charity, which was a charitable incorporated organisation, has been dissolved and was removed from the charities register on 31 October 2017.